NEWSFLASH : The breakdown of society is not due to the rising divorce rate or the banning of prayer from schools. I have discovered it is due to the invention of air conditioning.
Let me explain. Our A/C is out. Again.
A little over ten years ago we bought a wonderfully-lived-in house. It was equipped with several old features: original wooden floors, vintage glass door knobs and an outdated air conditioning unit.
Several months later, with beads of sweat popping on our brows, we called an A/C repair man. I’m pretty sure he had to hold back his incredulous expression as he informed us our unit was over 30 years old. I’ve since learned that most A/C units have a life expectancy of 20 years (with good care).
However, with his skill and kindness, he did some maintenance, added Freon and miraculously brought it back to life, with a sympathetic, but stern warning.
“You will need to replace this sooner than later,” he said.
We prayed it would last a while and lived our lives.
This same courteous man has come to our home on several occasions in the past decade and I think he’s finally realized either we’re stupid, or just poor. So the other day when we called upon his services, he quickly diagnosed the problem (broken fan motor) and gave my husband several lower-cost solutions to fix it.
The other night as I was lying in my bed with the fan blowing hot air on my sticky skin I wondered, “How did people survive without air conditioning in the south?”
In the mugginess of the midnight hour I learned during a quick Google search that pioneers built their houses specifically to help with the issue. Trees were planted on the east and west sides of the home for shading purposes. There were no windows or only small ones that had shutters on the outside to cover up the sun in the daytime. No one stayed inside.
Later, builders figured out that high ceilings helped keep the warm air high and windows placed opposite of the room (or house) created cross ventilation. They built large porches to assist with shading, and similarly created an outdoor space that was breezy (hopefully).
Most people gathered in a rocking chair on the front porch with a glass of sweet tea to sip. It became a community gathering spot. My mind sprouted images of The Waltons and The Andy Griffith Show, although I do have a few memories of my dad’s parents sitting on the porch, breaking beans and smoking.
Fast-forward to 2016 where it is sometimes considered cruel not to have air conditioning. We have retreated inside, where the temperature is controlled on those super humid days.
When we flock inside to our own little castles, it’s more difficult to connect with others. Instead of commiserating about the heat together, now we take comfort in the cool alone.
Most modern houses are not even built with front porches big enough for one rocking chair, let alone five or six!
Who wants to start a revolution with me? Gather some sweet tea (I’ll drink ice water, thank you), a stadium chair and sit out on your front porch or your front stoop. See how many stop by and want to talk with you. Wait, I bet it’ll be too hot.
Maybe you’ll find me there in the evenings, at least for a week, or until this A/C is fixed.